Alaska lawmaker collapses, rushed to hospital

Rep. David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks, collapsed in office after complaining of chest pains, unconsciousness

Rep. David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks, was taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital by ambulance Tuesday afternoon after collapsing in his office.

 

Emergency calls taken by Capital City Fire/Rescue about 2 p.m. Tuesday and relayed by radio said a 65-year-old man in Room 501 of the Alaska State Capitol was reporting chest pains and unconsciousness.

House Majority Coalition spokesman Mike Mason said Guttenberg was “conscious, speaking, and in good spirits” as he was taken out of the Capitol, but hospital spokeswoman Katie Bausler said Thursday evening that Guttenberg had been admitted to the hospital’s critical care unit for observation overnight.

According to Legislative staff and fellow lawmakers, Guttenberg had left a meeting of the House Finance Committee and did not appear to be in ill health as he returned to his office, which is a short distance from the House Finance committee room.

After paramedics arrived, Guttenberg walked out of his office and was placed onto a gurney. CCFR EMTs guided the gurney to an ambulance awaiting in the capitol’s Fifth Street parking lot. That ambulance departed the capitol without flashing lights or siren, and arrived at the hospital about 2:30 p.m.

Guttenberg’s chief of staff accompanied him in the ambulance; his other staffers declined comment and left the Capitol for the hospital shortly after 2:30 p.m.

At 3:30 p.m., the chief of staff said by text message that Guttenberg was sleeping and up until 15 minutes before that had been talking about pending legislation. She referred further questions to the office of the Speaker of the House.

About 4:15 p.m., Bartlett Regional Hospital spokeswoman Katie Bausler said Guttenberg was brought into the hospital at 2:32 p.m. and “apparently fainted.”

“He’s still being worked up in the emergency department, but he is likely to be released,” Bausler said.

That changed by 6 p.m., when Bausler said by text message that Guttenberg “has been admitted to the critical care unit for overnight observation.”

She declined to say whether that was done based on the results of testing performed at the hospital.

Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage and vice chairman of the House Finance Committee, said he was extraordinarily worried about Guttenberg’s health but was glad to see his fellow lawmaker managing to joke, even as he was wheeled away.

His office had shared two pies with Guttenberg’s office on Wednesday.

“He looked at me and said, ‘It was your pie,’” Gara said, describing the scene as Guttenberg was helped away.

As news spread of Guttenberg’s injury, constituents, fellow lawmakers, Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and Gov. Bill Walker offered their best wishes and prayers for a quick recovery.

Guttenberg, 66, has served in the Legislature since 2003 and represents House District 4, which includes the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. Born in New York City on May 26, 1951, he has lived in Fairbanks since 1970, the same year he graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He worked as a Laborer during construction of the trans-Alaska Pipeline System.

If Guttenberg’s injury is severe or causes his absence from the Capitol for an extended period, it could have a significant effect on work in the Alaska House of Representatives. The House’s coalition majority has struggled to muster 21 members — the minimum needed to pass legislation — during the first 50 days of the session.

That has delayed the passage of several bills, including time-sensitive legislation needed to keep the Alaska Marine Highway System operating past April 16.

Guttenberg’s collapse abruptly ended the Thursday meeting of the House Finance Committee, which had been considering the state’s operating budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Late Thursday, the committee canceled its scheduled Friday meeting. The committee’s next scheduled meeting is Monday.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at jbrooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258. Empire reporter Alex McCarthy contributed to this report.


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